Saturday, 3 September 2016

Where are we going next?

I’ve hinted at this on earlier blogs but this summer’s new project is the naval aspects of the Great Pacific War. I wasn’t sure about how to deal with this until Ian Drury’s session at COW this year. He had all or most of the ships, taken from the Tumbling Dice 1/2400 Victorian range. This seemed to work and a look at the models on Thomo’s Hole blog showed they were what I needed. The TD website has no pictures, - the consequence its owner told me of having too many products and no time to paint them. I’d have thought a quick snap of the assembled model was all that was needed, but there you have it.

The naval conflict is central to the outcome of the war. With no north-south roads or railways the use of ships to ferry troops up and down the coast gives a major advantage to the side which controls the sea. The reason for the lack of north-south transport links on land is that the important local need was to shift produce from the interior to the coast for export, hence the building of a lateral transport net funded by European mining interests.

It’s not immediately obvious why Tumbling Dice or indeed anyone should make the ships. One in particular, the turreted Ironclad Huascar, is a unique vessel that can’t be mistaken for anything else. She’s probably the reason for the range too. When she was quite new she was seized in one of Peru’s periods of civil unrest by the rebels and ran into HMS Shah. The Shah wasn’t an ironclad, but she did have a significant broadside. Her inability to deal with the Huascar definitively at the time was the matter of a national scandal for the Royal Navy and hence she became a famous mid-Victorian vessel.

If you have a range of Victorian RN vessels you probably have a good chance of producing the Shah. If you have the Shah then it’s a short step to her most famous opponent, the Huascar. The Huascar was an experimental sea-going turret ship, built in 1866 in England.

From there it’s not a real stretch to produce the other Peruvian ironclad, the Independencia. Again built in 1866 in England she's a mini-HMS Warrior.

Of course, if you have them then you need the Chilean ironclads, the Almirante Cochrane and Blanco Enclada. Another one built in England, but newer (1874). She had her guns pivot mounted in central armoured barbettes.

The Blanco Encalada. was her sister ship and identical.

The rest of the navies of both sides can be fleshed out with TD’s generic corvettes, sloops & gunboats. And a couple of ex-ACW monitors the Peruvians had acquired. Obviously.

The Union was a Peruvian wooden commerce raider, intended for the Conferderate Navy.

The Chacabuco was a Chilean vessel, different to the Union, but there are only so many models.

And the Pilcomayo is an even smaller Peruvian vessel.

So I have a full set of vessels, more or less (some not shown here), plus a few others to act as troop ships and colliers and so on.They paint up quite nicely and aren’t a great stress on painting time.

Now, what about rules? Ian Drury's session at COW this year was on the Battle of Lissa, 1866, when the Italian and Austrian ironclad fleets clashed as I mentioned above. The rules include provision for the Peruvian & Chilean ships, so that was a good starting point.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't make a few changes, however. What it seemed to me I might need to do was to take rules that are intended for a big fleet action where the loss of one or two ships might not be a big deal and look to see what that means for actions with less than 6 ships aside where the loss of one ship might be very significant.

For the first game as an experiment I dispensed with the hex map and went with movable hexes, like in "Hammerin' Iron 2", the old RFCM ACW Riverine Warfare game. I also dumped the structured phased movement from the old Paragon Gladiator game in favour of a deck of cards with 6 cards for ships that move 6 hexes, 5 for ships that move 5 and so on.

Chris A & Phil were available at short notice for a quick playtest and ideas laboratory.

The game was of the battle that never happened, with all ironclads present and a couple of support wooden ships each. The Peruvians are to the right in the picture above.

We steamed at each other and blazed away. The Huascar experienced problems reloading her turret guns. No one seemed to have a plan. Very realistic so far.

I succeeded in getting the Peruvians separated so the Chileans could gang up on one ship. They were helped by the Independencia having her rudder shot away.

Eventually some ships were sunk. I sank a Chilean wooden ship first (the Chacabuco, I think) we had several failed ramming attempts, until the Huascar got taken amidships by the Cochrane, and sank immediately. The Independencia battled on until she lost her captain and struck her colours.

The rules worked well and have some interesting features. The game took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours for just the 8 ships, so that's about right for the size of the actions I'll be doing. I'm going to stick with the movable hexes, and give each ship a numbered set, probably. The card sequence for moving will remain.

Ian uses ordinary playing cards for critical hits. I think I'll make a bespoke set, and I need to do something about small arms fire, which had a significant effect on exposed crew managing the pivot guns on these ships. The ramming rules are a bit eccentric too, so some thought needed there.

In the wash up Phil made some remarks about how DBA is a game played on a grid, which each unit carries around with them until you are forced to line up. That's a useful perspective, and I think that'll help.

Although I did wake up in the night and wonder about basing the ships on octagons, and they don't tessellate.

Much food for thought.


  1. A really interesting naval period and the TD models are lovely. Have you thought of using David Manley's new fleet level rules for ironclads, Broadside and Ram. I suspect he'll do a supplement for the GPW soon.

    1. No, because I was not aware of them! I was going to write my own before I came across Ian's Lissa set.

      Although Dave has a good reputation I'm unlikely to buy any set of rules completely blind.Problem with all these downloadable rules: you can't leaf through them first.

  2. Very nice looking 1/2400th Ships- certainly do like the Victorian Ironclads. Great Project. Regards. KEV.

    1. They do have a certain charm. I fear my paint is a bit thick, close up. The TD models are nice, - and as far as I can see better value and larger range than the Hallmark equivalents.